Smoke DZA Interview
Carving his way in the Hip-Hop game, Harlem based MC Smoke DZA has created a niche for himself unlike any other lyricist in his region. Rekindling the nostalgia of Hip-Hop’s “golden era,” the kushed god gives us modern authenticity infused with soulful production and honest lyrics.
Currently riding on his newly finished Rolling Stoned, DZA is also preparing to hit the road with his Jet Life comrades. In his exclusive conversation with Hip-Hop Wired, he speaks on his new album, his thoughts on the Watch The Throne hype, the best kush he’s ever smoked and more.
Hip-Hop Wired: DZA! How’s everything, you been doing well?
Smoke DZA: Grindin, grindin, grindin. I been home for like the past month maybe, since y’all saw me last on Jet Life Tour. I just been home, I been working on the album. Just Shyte like that you know, cool Shyte. Smoking weed, eating lobster and Shyte.
Hip-Hop Wired: Nice little break right?
Smoke DZA: Yeah, nice little break. I’m about to go out again on Smokers Club October 12th with Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T. and Method Man.
Hip-Hop Wired: Getting to your music, you really tell stories in your songs. With this new album, what story are we getting from DZA?
Smoke DZA: I’m just having a lot of fun on most of my Shyte. It’s just a fun record, it’s just a fun album like collaborating with my friends, of course touching on a few topics like the Shyte that I’m into on my off days, letting them into my life a little bit. It’s not something a lot of people wouldn’t expect from me. It’s pretty dope, it’s a different approach that I don’t normally take.
Hip-Hop Wired: From Substance Abuse to your more recent work, I really see the progression in your sound. Substance Abuse was more like a younger DZA and you just hear the growth with each release.
Smoke DZA: Yeah, it’s just the growth of the music I guess. Being on the road, seeing other things it helps me to be a little more creative, and touch on different subjects, and come up with witty lines to make people be like haha. It’s progression and being around talented folks.
Hip-Hop Wired: With the cover art for Rolling Stoned, did you have to get that artwork cleared because of the likeness to the magazine?
Smoke DZA: No. We had a problem with the distributor, because of the likeness of the magazine but I was just like Fawk it man. It is what it is. If they come after me, it’ll just be a good look. Rolling Stone Magazine goes after Smoke DZA (laughs). I think that’ll be tight. Get me some Rolling Stoned coverage real fast.
Hip-Hop Wired: You have some great features, you have Bun B, Kendrick, some new and some you work with regularly. When you’re collaborating with other artists, is it a competitive mind state for you? Or is it more I’m just doing something with my friends. Because I know you’re very picky about who you work with.
Smoke DZA: Yeah I’m very picky about who I work with. I love working with friends of course because there’s already a chemistry there. So it’s not like it was something forced. Working with friends is cool but I’m always open to working with new, talented people that I don’t know. It’s always good to spar with someone that’s in the same business that you’re in, it makes you up your ante.
Hip-Hop Wired: I think it’s interesting that you don’t collaborate too much with New York MC’s, so how are you able to build those relationships outside of your region, where-as there’s a lot of MC’s to come out of New York and they do it through affiliation.
Smoke DZA: Right, I mean…I don’t really Fawk with New York artists because they don’t Fawk with me. You know, (laughs) that’s really what it is. A wise man once told me if everybody Fawk with you and certain people don’t Fawk with you it’s on them.
So it’s not like I’m not open to working with New York artists, it’s my backyard, it’s where I’m from but everybody in New York ain’t the same. Everybody in New York don’t have that common interest in trying to help another New York artist, to collaborate with another New York artist and it be something.
It’s like crabs in a basket out here, which it needs to change. I’m all for creating with n*ggas, whether I like them or not. We from the same town, so it should just be second nature that we collaborate with each other. But everybody don’t feel that way. I got alliances with out of towners because they happen to be my friends. They see me for what I am and I see them for what they are and we help each other out and just keep going like that.
So really it’s on the New York artists to do it because you can reach out and you can try to bridge that gap but it’s all on them being cooperative. It’s too much competition out here man.
Hip-Hop Wired: George Kush Da Button: The Second Term, you’re working on that as well?
Smoke DZA: Yep, I don’t know what the slated release is for it but I’m working on it. It’s pretty pre-mature right now, I guess I’m going to wait until Rolling Stoned comes out and then maybe I’ll start focusing on George Kush but my vision for George Kush is how I did the last one on a production level, but on a creative level I really don’t know how I’m gonna attack it.
I do want to have Ski Beatz involved, because it would be blasphemous to do another George Kush and not have him involved. I want to have my Jet Life brothers involved to, I want to have Spitta (Curren$y) involved, this may be a project I give to Spitta, let him do his executive thing on there.
Hip-Hop Wired: I know that Jay-Z is your favorite MC of like all eternity…
Smoke DZA: (Laughs).
Hip-Hop Wired: So, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t ask you your thoughts on the Watch The Throne album.
Smoke DZA: Oh, so you already know. I love it. I love, love, love it. On some artist Shyte, they really like stepping up the bar. It’s just amazing. You could just tell they were really sparring. That’s what sparring is right there. You hearing Jigga come off, and then you hearing Kanye come off too, you can’t really say Jigga beat Kanye on everything, you can’t say Kanye beat Jigga on everything.
Lyrically, they’re really pushing the bar and bringing lyrics back. I loved it. I mean, you know I’m a Jay-Z fan so Shyte like that just makes me happy.
Hip-Hop Wired: I loved it to, I think the production was just on a different level. What did you think about the public’s reaction? Both positive and negative?
Smoke DZA: Ahh, I mean…a lot of people just don’t understand. I won’t even call it hate, it’s just confusion. It’s the same thing that people did with him on Kingdom Come.
Smoke DZA Album Release Party
Hip-Hop Wired: I loved that album.
Smoke DZA: I loved it too. It was just that a lot of people didn’t understand it, and you can’t really say ah, well these n*ggas is rich, so I don’t understand. You have to put yourself in that rich state of mind and know where these guys is coming from to really embrace and love the music. Shyte, they weren’t always rich.
You heard him evolving from Reasonable Doubt to Kingdom Come. It was a good thing. I like listening to that album, Watch The Throne. I mean, what else are they going to talk about?
Hip-Hop Wired: They’re not going to talk about being poor.
Smoke DZA: (Laughs) clearly they’re not. I don’t know man, if it’s not some stupid Fawking dance or some stupid Shyte …I don’t know man. I’m a 90s guy. I grew up on these guys, these guys helped raise me. Listening to them, and hearing their stories, you feel like you know them.
Hip-Hop Wired: Coming up in high school, you used to freestyle battle a lot! How do you feel about the freestyling art these days?
Smoke DZA: Oh you did your research girl, Shyte. I was big on the battle scene. Sheesh, you took me back. I was one of them cats that was going from high school to high school battling all of the “who’s who’s.” Roasting them and battling four or five people at a time, I was on some wild Shyte. That would step up my game lyrically, because being from Harlem you have to have that order where “I’m The Best.”
You know, everybody wants to be the best. So being from Harlem, it pushes that bar. So, you’d battle somebody to see who’s the best. That was my thing. It got me to Fawking Josh Taylor at 17, and you know I’m 27 now. That’s pretty much, where it got me. You can say battling paved the way for the Smoke DZA you see right now.
Hip-Hop Wired: I feel like that’s how it started off for a lot of the authentic artists. Now, you’ll have an artist straight up tell you I can’t freestyle, but you usually associate that as being second nature to an MC.
Smoke DZA: I hear artists say that same Shyte too, but I mean…I don’t know. N*ggas now-a-days, they confuse me man. I’m from the 90s. I’m from an era where you have to do that or else you wasn’t nice if you didn’t. It’s like, who’s nice? Are you a fad?
Hip-Hop Wired: Straying away from music for a bit. Why do you think marijuana still hasn’t been legalized? What do you think it’ll take to make it legal?
Smoke DZA: I hope it’s never legalized. I feel like when they legalize marijuana they’re going to turn it into Q4 or some Shyte like that. Q4 is like oregano, but it’s for like people that don’t smoke I guess it’s like a nicotine patch. It’s supposed to be like play weed that you think you high but you’re really not. I think if they legalize weed, it’ll start sprinkling and Fawking with the THC level to where it’s not the weed that we know. They’ll be giving us what they want us to smoke. When it’s legalized, the only way that they’ll be able to tax it is if it’s legalized.
When you tax Shyte and start bringing other Shyte into the bud, I don’t think it’s going to be the same, I think it’s going to get out of hand. It’ll probably be too expensive at some point, just like how they’re doing with cigarettes. I don’t see the reason in legalizing.
Decriminalizing, I see that. If they decriminalize that means what I have, what I’m smoking, no one can harass me for, and that’s cool. But legalizing, it’s just legalizing what they want to give you, not legalizing what you want to smoke.
Hip-Hop Wired: Have you had medicinal marijuana that was better…
Smoke DZA: H*ll yeah! I had some OG Kush in L.A., put me right on my a**. I slept for about an hour and a half, in the studio. I think I was writing my verse and I may just fallen asleep on some narcoleptic Shyte. Oh I had some sour from Denver that was ridiculous from the medicinal spot.
Hip-Hop Wired: Would you say L.A. has the best weed?
Smoke DZA: Yes, L.A. has the best weed in the Fawking world. Nobody got better weed than L.A.
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